Mid-Offseason Report

So far, the Braves have signed Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann on major league deals, they’ve tendered contracts to their entire 40-man, designated for assignment and subsequently traded Adam McCreery and Ricardo Sanchez, and signed some minor league FAs like Pedro Florimon.

It’s also important to note that while they chose to part ways with McCreery and Sanchez, they have protected players who have not seen Atlanta like Patrick Weigel, Jacob Webb, Alex Jackson, Huascar Ynoa, and Grant Dayton. So while McCreery was a guy who pitched in Atlanta, they felt like those guys were worth 40-man spots. That should lead us to believe that especially Weigel, Webb, and Dayton could play a role on the major league roster next year.

At any rate, what would the roster and payroll look like if they decided this was the end of their offseason? Well, you can’t do that exactly since we simply don’t have a RF. So let’s just say they sign a placeholder, league average-ish right fielder for around $10M a year. Let’s call him Mick Narkakis. But from there, you’d have a $127-128M payroll according to our man Stu as he tracks the Braves’ payroll and speculates arb raises. I say this because, at minimum, they’re going to need to do something about right field , even if it’s not a big acquisition. It’d be malpractice otherwise. A $128M opening day payroll would be about where the end of year payroll ended up last year according to Spotrac. That includes the deadline acquisitions of O’Day, Brach, Gausman, Duda, etc.

We would set sail with the following roster, and if AA’s preferred lineup beginning with Acuna, Donaldson, and Freeman is indeed Snit’s preferred lineup, you would be looking at something like this:

1. Ronald Acuna Jr.
2. Josh Donaldson
3. Freddie Freeman
4. Mick Narkakis
5. Ozzie Albies
6. Dansby Swanson/Johan Camargo
7. Brian McCann/Tyler Flowers
8. Ender Inciarte

I think it’s important to train your eye to the SS spot on the roster. It’s easy to look at Dansby Swanson and think that we’re in for more of the same, the .243/.314/.369 career line that he’s produced so far. But that’s simply not going to happen. If he continues a sub-.700 OPS, you would have to assume that Johan Camargo and Dansby will switch spots in some capacity. So whether it’s Dansby or Johan, the lineup deepens considerably.

Otherwise, you do have a hole at the cleanup spot based on the traditional view of a lineup. They could do things differently, of course, like hitting someone else in the #2 spot with Donaldson hitting clean-up, and that would be a more traditional lineup that gives you a classic clean-up hitter. But as it sits, a Mick Narkakis-type would not give you much punch in the 4-spot, $10M is not going to buy you any more power, and they don’t have anyone else to put in there. After that, though, the lineup looks a little deeper than last year with Albies, the shortstop, the catcher, and Ender rounding out the lineup. It’s only fair to note that Austin Riley could play himself into an outfield spot, thus allowing the Braves to use said Mick Narkakis money elsewhere, but I don’t think it’s wise for a team looking to contend deep into the playoffs to do that. With that said, Riley did finish strong in AAA, hitting .300/.347/.609 in 116 PAs in August, so who knows what might happen in Spring Training.

Bench:

1. Tyler Flowers
2. Johan Camargo/Dansby Swanson
3. Charlie Culberson
4. Adam Duvall

With Duvall tendered a contract, I would think that Duvall will be your backup outfielder barring a trade. I once again use Dansby and Johan interchangeably because whoever hits will play SS, and whoever doesn’t will undoubtedly be on the bench. And if they both hit, then you’ve really got an impressive bench. I don’t hate the bench.

Rotation:

1. Mike Foltynewicz
2. Kevin Gausman
3. Sean Newcomb
4. Julio Teheran
5. Michael Soroka/Luiz Gohara/Max Fried/Touki Toussaint

Folty made the All-Star team, finished 8th in the Cy Young vote behind such guys as deGrom, Scherzer, Nola, and Corbin and ahead of Jon Lester. He finished 6th in NL ERA, 7th-lowest WHIP, 5th-fewest hits per 9, and 6th-most K’s per 9. If he was a few years older and more experienced, you might be inclined to mistake him for Patrick Corbin. I say that to say that Folty pitched like an Ace(TM) last year, and it would be difficult to think that he hasn’t turned a corner.

Something happened with Gausman after the deadline where he lowered his FIP 80 points from his work in Baltimore along with lowering his ERA 156 points to 2.87 in 59.2 IP. Maybe a ground ball pitcher can use a quality defense behind him? His BABIP reducing about 50 points between his two stops perhaps confirms that.

Newcomb finished with a 3.90 ERA and threw 164 IP, something only 28 pitchers in the NL actually did. And while he’s not Jon Lester, he’ll be 26 and a new pitching coach may help that 4.4 BB/9 move a little closer to league average. With our defense, there’s simply no justification for our pitchers to continue to avoid the strike zone. Old Man Teheran, all of 28 years old next year, would have less upside than you’d like from a #4 starter but he matches up with other #4 starters like Washington’s Tanner Roark, New York’s Steven Matz, and Philly’s Nick Pivetta or Vince Velasquez. Philly, though, may end up with someone like JA Happ before the end of the week. The problem is we don’t have a second pitcher like Scherzer or Corbin or Syndergaard or deGrom unless one of Gausman or Newcomb turn the corner.

But barring a trade, no one in the NL — and I mean no one, save maybe the Dodgers or Cubs— has any 5th starter that will be as good as the winner of the Soroka, Gohara, Fried, and Touki 5th starter competition. I don’t care what any team does for the remainder of the offseason. It’s also important to note that every team has to have a 6th starter, a pitcher who whether sporadically or consistently has to cover several starts. For even playoff teams, they might be bringing someone up from the minors who was delivering pizzas the week before. As an example, Washington threw Erik Fedde for 50 IP, 11 starts, and a 5.54 ERA as their “6th” starter. Milwaukee had two guys rotating as their 6th starter with ERAs in the mid-4s. Just about every team in baseball doesn’t have 5 guys making 30 starts, and even if you did, you’re short. We won’t be short. That’s a 4-5+ game swing.

I couldn’t tell you who will win, but if Luiz Gohara is healthy, you’d have a hard time beating him. And if Mike Soroka is pitching well, you’d have a hard time keeping both of them out of the rotation should you have more of the same from Julio.

Bullpen:

1. A.J. Minter
2. Arodys Vizcaino
3. Darren O’Day
4. Jonny Venters
5. Chad Sobotka
6. Jesse Biddle
7. Dan Winkler
8. Loser of Rotation Competition
9. Loser of Rotation Competition
10. Loser of Rotation Competition
11. Shane Carle
12. Sam Freeman
13. Bryse Wilson

Love the depth. Absolutely love it. Hate the leverage. There is no one in this bullpen I trust to come in to pitch to Yelich, Cain, and Aguilar or Turner, Bellinger, or Muncy — regardless of inning — right now. Could that change with the current group? Absolutely. But the Braves seem to agree with this and want another reliever, undoubtedly a high leverage reliever. The easy but inefficient answer is to trade 5 years of control of one of your pitching prospects for 2-3 years of a very inexpensive reliever like Raisel Iglesias, and that wouldn’t make a dent in payroll much.

Does the team win the division if even Philly adds a big bat? Yeah, I think so? Do we win our first playoff series since 2001? I’m not so sure about that one.

69 thoughts on “Mid-Offseason Report”

  1. It’s only just sunk in. Have we really turned our backs on Anibal after what he did last year, on and off the field? Big mistake say I – the more young arms that get blooded next year the more value he represents.

    Worth a spot on the 40? Of course, look at what he just did for us. Cost would be peanuts I presume.

  2. Anibal is not going to sign a minor league deal, so it won’t just be a spot on the 40-man. You’ll have to keep him on the major league roster. You can see on the list there there’s just so much talent that I’m not even sure I would want Anibal as a long reliever.

    The simple answer is that if you’re going to bring in a veteran pitcher from outside the organization, it needs to be an elite pitcher. And once you put the “depth chart” of the pitching staff, so to speak, in list form, you see that it would be incredibly easy to package someone from the 2016 draft (Anderson, Wentz, Muller), someone from the 2015 or 2017 draft (Allard or Wright), someone from the major league crop, and/or someone from the non-elite position player prospect crop (not Riley or Pache), and you could get an elite pitcher.

    Or if you wanted leadership that could impact the young staff, just go ahead and get Realmuto, and you’ve accomplished the same thing. I don’t believe for a second that the Marlins won’t trade Realmuto if they don’t get someone like Ozzie Albies, which has been rumored. By the end of the offseason, maybe even before the end of the calendar year, the Marlins are going to end up trading off Realmuto for a package that is no better than what I described in the last paragraph. Just do that.

  3. yes, but if the Marlins can get a comparable package and not have to face him 19 times a year they’ll go that route.

    But, I’m betting the marlins are thinking they’re about to get a (pardon the football reference here) Herschel Walker return for JT.

  4. Very sad about Valbuena and Castillo. It looks like it wasn’t a car accident where they were being foolish. I guess a sliding rock caused them to go into oncoming traffic. That’s really sad. You make it to the financial Holy Grail of South American sports, a professional baseball player. And as your career is winding down, you leave too soon.

    It is a great thing, though, that our little game allows us to get to know people like Ronald Acuna Jr. or Ozzie Albies that we otherwise wouldn’t.

  5. If we can give the Marlins the equivalent of Jim Wynn, Tom Paciorek, Lee Lacy and Jerry Royster I have no problem picking up the equivalent of Dusty Baker.

    On the other hand, if we give them the equivalent of Elvis Andrus, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz and Beau Jones, then I don’t want the equivalent of Mark Teixera.

    I hope that clears up the Realmuto situation.

  6. In exchange for a total of 6.7 bWAR plus Casey Kotchman and Steve Marek, we gave up the Tex haul. If we could trade the modern-day equivalent haul for Realmuto and what he will produce and for how much he will do it, I would make that deal every day and twice on Sunday.

    Does anyone know how to break out team stats on Fangraphs when someone has played for two teams in the same reason? Fangraphs seems to lump them together into one season with no ability to split them out. I’d want to know what fWAR Tex produced as a Brave, and it doesn’t seem possible.

  7. To be fair, had we gotten the remainder of Tex’s career out of him I would have had little problem with that trade. I still can’t see Jerry Royster without being a little upset, though, and we got the best nine years of his career.

  8. Two pitchers. One is on the “Greatest 44” list. The other is not.

    249.1 IP, 200 ERA+, 3.16 FIP
    353.2 IP, 121 ERA+, 3.62 FIP

  9. Thanks for moving up Avery. He deserves it. He would be so much more if not for Bobby. Same can be said for Venters.

  10. I can’t imagine the Braves picking up any FAs – major or minor – until the “big trade” has happened to clear spaces on the 40-man. If we ultimately want to pick up say Markakis, Anibal, and Dietrich (or Brach or another reliever) or the equivalent then we’d need to DFA three guys off the 40-man and probably lose them. And none of that will happen until after the Rule 5 draft, either. Better to trade out multiple spots on the roster to consolidate value than to lose it on DFAs.

    Obviously, the Donaldson and McCann deals were too good to pass up immediately, but there doesn’t seem to be any such other possibilities on the horizon.

    Unfortunately, we have to wait and see. What will the “big trade” be?

  11. Pitcher 2 is John Burkett. Two years. One mediocre, slightly less than average season. One “when the hell die John Burkett become Greg Maddux lite?!” season.

  12. For the record, one of the national sports sites ran a “what outfielders from the M’s and D’backs would fit with Atlanta?” bit this morning.

  13. The Braves will probably trade 4-5 players — most of which currently on the 40-man — for Realmuto, Haniger, or a front line starter. If a fan’s expectation is for the Braves to drop another $30M on payroll, they’ll probably be disappointed, and it has nothing to do with the fact that they won’t spend more than they did next year. They will. And that will solve what is genuinely a 40-man problem, and they’ll still get another elite player. Whether they get another “big bat”, to me, is irrelevant. Get someone like Realmuto or a frontline starter, and I couldn’t be happier.

  14. It’s especially difficult to compare relief pitchers to starting pitchers, much less putting them on a list with all players. And usage has changed so over time that comparing a current reliever to one from the 70s or 80s is tough. Look at Steve Bedrosian’s three year run as a reliever from 1982-84. 340 IP, with ERA+ of 156, 108, 153, and FIP of 2.92, 3.43, and 2.83. Does he belong in the top 44?

  15. I think Steve Bedrosian, over the course of his two stints in ATL, was as valuable and “great” as Eric O’Flaherty ever was. I think the placement of EOF specifically, is a pretty big recency bias problem.

  16. To be honest, I don’t know why Bedrock isn’t on this list. My hope was to simply update it, and it’s spurred some good debate about people who played their entire careers before this list was originally made. I know Mac was having fun with it, but I think next year I’m going to drill down and probably re-do the list, especially since we’ll have people to add. It sounds like we agree that EOF should be on the list, but Venters is right there with EOF and Bedrock should be on the list too.

    Let it be known that we’re pretty much squabbling over the 37 through 44 best Atlanta Braves.

  17. I believe Eric O’Flaherty to have been the 49th greatest Brave.

    *edit* Maybe this would be a good 64-team bracket “road to the greatest Brave” exercise, in the future.

  18. I said in the beginning that I didn’t see a lot of reason to talk about the list. It’s subjective. It might as well be Rob’s 44 favorite Braves.

    Contrary to what some are saying about budget room, the Braves are still engaged in discussions with a free agent who is asking for $20 milllion/year. Tells me all I need to know. The Braves still have plenty of room in the budget that’s greater than the $20 million.

  19. @26

    I find it interesting that Ian Happ got all the way through the Cubs’ system with such a large vulnerability in his game.

  20. The trade proposal that fans of both the Indians and Braves on Twitter seem to like is Kluber for Pache, Wright, and Fried. That would be a hard deal to make, and I don’t think the Braves would make it. I still prefer the trades where a rebuilding team prefers a multitude of prospects vs. 3 more elite prospects. Like if the Marlins would trade us Realmuto for Fried, Wilson, Izzy Wilson, Ynoa, and Tristan Beck. We get to clear 3 players off our 40-man, and they get players from all over the spectrum.

  21. No one wants to rebuild with your mediocre prospects. Go get Kluber. Sign with Brantley or Kakes. Win a damned title.

  22. @28, Rob, unfortunately, I think the Marlins would look at those guys as throw-ins, not cornerstones. Based on what the Marlins have been asking for over the past year and a half that he’s been clearly available, Realmuto would take something like 2-3 of our top 5 prospects.

  23. @27 I noted that too while perusing. My only conclusion is that everyone starts at the top of the aging curve…… :-)

    Rob, the only thing missing from your prospective roster is a lefty for the bench. I’m still a proponent of Dietrich even if it means we have to carry 5 bench players.

    I would hate to see Fried go away via trade. Of any of the prospects, Fried seems the most polished and accumulated the most experience. Every year there seems to be a few rookies or near rookies who break out and dominate as starters to the point of saying “where in the hell did these guys come from”. I think it’s the Braves’ turn for one of those – Fried, Soroka, or Touki. [Guys like Marquez or Freeland, Mikolas, Buehler, Peacock, Carlos Martinez, Ray, etc…]

    I think two of those three – Fried, Soroka, or Touki need to break Spring in the rotation. If one of them is pedestrian and the other breaks out then this team will be big winners.

  24. @31 Yeah, it’s wishful thinking that it would be quantity over quality with Realmuto. In my mind, I’m wanting to make the trade for the 25-year old version of Justin Upton where you have 3 more years of control at an inflation-adjusted $10M, $15M, and $17M, and a Chris Johnson, and you gave up Nick Ahmed, Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, and Zeke Spruill. So today’s package would be like Ender, Touki, Derian Cruz(?), and, I don’t know, Michael Mader or Tucker Davidson. And whereas we traded Prado and got back a 3B, you trade Ender and get back someone in a favorable service time situation but a Derek Dietrich mold.

    In due time, in due time, the deal will emerge.

  25. Every year there seems to be a few rookies or near rookies who break out and dominate as starters to the point of saying “where in the hell did these guys come from”.

    Soroka would have probably been that had he stayed healthy.

  26. I think the quantity over quality approach only works for guys with only an one year deal remaining. Goldschmidt’s deal proves that.

    The market has changed a lot since the JUpton trade.

  27. @35. Ar….another poor kid ruined by Bobby. You all see, Bobby only managed to keep Maddux and Glavine healthy all these years and it’s probably because they are not power pitcher to begin with.

  28. Jurrjens’ health issues weren’t arm-related, though.

    The kind of pitcher he was, he was always going to be walking a tightrope as he lost velocity or dealt with injuries over time. I don’t think Bobby can be blamed for him.

  29. $20M can also buy you Greinke and Peralta with some to spare for a reliever or Realmuto.

    https://tomahawktake.com/2018/12/08/atlanta-braves-morning-chop-watch-out-for-zack-greinke-next-week/

    They took the idea of packaging Teheran and O’Day and added Duvall which makes sense too. This continues to make too much sense to avoid. Using last year’s numbers, Teheran would still become AZ’s top pitcher (he was our third best pitcher) for next year – obviously both Corbin and Greinke would have been better. And Teheran has 7 years on Greinke. Duvall has the capability to match Peralta in both offense and defense with obviously more risk to do so. If we add one top prospect to the deal, AZ probably receives as much real major league production as they are giving away, especially with O’Day in the deal. They then have some choices about dealing what they receive if they so choose.

    Plus the Braves create one or two spaces on the 40-man roster to sign a reliever and a LH bench bat (or a catcher or a Rule 5 type).

    It might be nice to get Bradley, too, but it wouldn’t be necessary for it to be a good deal and save AZ about $50M over three years. And, if all players perform to their exhibited abilities, what makes the trade good or bad for either is the quality of the prospect the Braves include.

  30. @42 The Kluber deal being discussed is too rich for my blood and would not leave enough to get Realmuto without really gutting the farm. With Donaldson only around for one year, Riley is still essential to keep.

    Adding Donaldson and Peralta really add about a total of 25 HRs, if everything goes well. We all pretty much thought that we needed to add about 30. Hopefully, a bench with Camargo or a full season of Acuna will add the extra five.

  31. @40. I thought JJ had shoulder issue?

    @45. Kluber is what we need. I don’t mind Bauer as well!

    @44. We need money for the outfielder. Forget about Realmuto, it’s not going to happen.

  32. Maybe I’m misremembering, but I thought the shoulder thing was minor and not structural, whereas his knee/groin issues were bigger problems.

    Agree on Realmuto. Time to let it go.

  33. @47 Honestly I am not really trying to blame Bobby because he is from the conventional days of expecting pitchers to throw more than 200 innings per season asap and players signing up to play 162 games. And his only rule for protecting bullpen arm is not to throw three consecutive days.

    These are not being changed until this decade and, for the Braves, AA arriving to this organization.

    I am just thinking if life would be different for Avery, Smoltz, Medlan, Hudson, Beachy, Jonny, etc if they are being handled with today’s approach.

  34. @48 – I would guess pitcher injuries are about the same as they were 20 years ago or they may be going up slightly. Biggest trend now is that there are a lot more 95+ mph throwers and a lot less 85 mph throwers. I don’t know if any arm has ever been designed to throw 95 and above consistently.

  35. I’ve yet to see any evidence that today’s approach to pitcher health is any more effective than those of the past. Of course, it’s hard to divine such things given the aforementioned change in average pitcher types.

  36. At least we have not had one wave of Tommy John cases since Snit took over. Remember we used to have two to three cases every year?

  37. How did we go from $60 million to spend to only $20?

    Right now, this is the 4th best team in the east. Good thing we can pull for Rome. Winning minor league titles is more important

  38. I’m going to tackle the payroll thing the best I can.

    They went into the offseason with the only significant dollars committed to Teheran, O’Day, Flowers, Freeman, and Ender. That was $50.1M.

    Then they have several arbitration guys that you pretty much knew they were going to tender deals to: Folty, Gausman, Venters, Winkler, Freeman, Culberson. Stu speculates that’ll be around $20-22M. But Venters even ended up a little higher than Stu’s speculation, so those numbers could move around. He’s got $5.5M for Folty, Gausman at $9.2M, and everybody else between $1-2M.

    So if you stop there, you’ve got $70-75M committed to players you know you want. Then with league minimums, you have another $10M or so. That’s $85M.

    Then they signed Donaldson and McCann. That’s $25M. So you’re at $110M. Where’s the rest?

    Well, they tendered deals to Vizcaino and Duvall. If Stu is corrected, that’s around $8M. So you’re now at $118M.

    We spent about $120M last year. There was the assumption it would go up, but I don’t think anyone thinks it’s going to go up more than, what, $15M? So that’s $135M. Maybe. And that’s a little higher than league average.

    It would seem that maybe we had about $50M to spend. We’ve got $25M tied up in Donaldson and McCann, and another $8M tied up in Vizzy and Duvall, people that were candidates to be non-tendered. So you have somewhere between $3M (to get to what we spent last year, $120M), and $18M to get to that $135M figure.

    They could still dump Duvall. That’s probably $3M in a guy that may be toast, but you could still get someone to take him. Vizzy will be at around $5M. There’s also Teheran at $11M and O’Day at $8M. There’s the possibility that someone like Teheran or Vizzy could end up in a trade anyway, so you have to consider that they’re looking at that angle.

  39. @53 Fangraphs projects us to be the third best team in the division not fourth. The Phillies would have to sign Machado just to get close to us. We need to get a TOR pitcher to catch the Mets. But, then again, the Nats are perennial underachievers. There’s still plenty of time to add what we need. Plus many of our players have upside that projections are not giving them credit for (much like last year).

    I can’t believe that more than 50% of people voting think that adding Donaldson as our only big bat is enough. We need another big bat in the OF for sure.

  40. @56 And Cano and getting Cespedes back and a full season of Rosario. They were the best team in the division during the last part of the season.

  41. I agree, additional budget will be there if we manage to get rid of Julio and/or not retaining Viz or Duvall.

  42. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the source on the “20 million or less” number is DOB, who also doubled down on “anyone who thinks the Braves have 50 million to spend this season is sadly mistaken” earlier in the offseason. I wouldn’t necessarily take his word as gold

  43. The Mets have an incredibly high variance team. Their pitching, if healthy, would be the best in the league. Their offense, if healthy, would be better than average. If healthy, I could see them winning 93 games and taking the division.

    I keep using that “if healthy” phrase though. I think we all know 3/5ths of the rotation will be down by the all-star break and that Cespedes’ body is made of spun glass. Then there is the question of defense, which has the potential to undermine everything. They will likely get off to a good start (for instance, 12-1), suffer a major injury loss, and go into a tailspin. The pundits will praise them on april 15th and say a new day has dawned in NY. Then they will be the Mets for the rest of the year.

  44. We have tried the “if healthy” route couple times and it never worked. I doubt the Mets will be luckier than us.

  45. The Mets aren’t unlucky. They’re owned by a rich, cheap, meddling owner who frequently reaches in and makes things worse. Everything from preventing trades to forcing deals to publicly insulting players for getting hurt. The Wilpons are a disaster and thank goodness for them. I hope they keep running the Mets into the ground for another hundred years.

  46. Not sure I understand why anyone is questioning the math on what’s left to spend. We had $50M to start and spent $27M on Donaldson and McCann so that leaves no more than $23M left to spend. That should be plenty to do what we need to do especially if we dislodge at least one or two contracts (Teheran and/or O’Day).

    I also think Greinke will age well since he gets guys out with a 70MPH curve instead of a 98MPH FB.

  47. No one knows what the Braves’ actual budget is.

    It’s all speculation. Remember that I said they have at least $20 million left for the off-season alone. They’re actually negotiating with two free agents asking for at least $20 mil/year. Neither, if signed, would be the end of Atlanta’s off-season plans.

    They have flexibility because of the deep farm full of pitching prospects. I also believe they’re keeping some money tucked away for the deadline. AA will never say what the budget is, but i don’t think it’s anything lower than expected. I just think he won’t spend it all just to spend it.

  48. First time poster here. Great breakdown on the team. I feel what they do in RF will be what decides if they finish first or second in the East.

    That said, I hope the Braves go nowhere near Puig. It’s possible he’s gotten himself together, but why risk it with a young, impressionable team?

    I’d like to see Houston sign Brantley, so that he’s not sitting on Atlanta’s DL half the year, and that it crowds their OF somewhat more. I feel like a swap of Josh Reddick for Julio Tehran almost becomes the perfect deal for both teams at that point.

    Best solution as I see it, without all the moving parts- just go get Castellanos. I know the gloves not great, but for a year?…

    I prefer short term OF solutions that won’t block Waters.

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